Review published on September 26, 2017.
Sometimes characters come along in books that are so utterly exquisite you feel blessed to have experienced them and indebted to their author for having gifted them to you. Such is the case with Elvira Carr, the unassuming star of Frances Maynard’s triumphant debut, The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr.
Elvira is a twenty-seven-year-old woman who is defined as neuroatypical, struggling to make sense of the world around her and the myriad social situations that confront her, yet when her mother suffers a stroke she’s forced to go out into the wide world on her own, and what ensues is a tale that is full of joy, empathy, honesty and warmth.
Although there have been a number of books that have featured characters with neurological disorders and there is a tendency for such books to share some similarities, the individuality and personality of the character, particularly in this case with Elvira, make this a memorable and unique read all of its own.
Maynard tells the story entirely from Elvira’s point of view and in doing so she highlights some of the absurdities of so-called neurotypical life, not least when it comes to the penchant for figures of speech, which, to use a figure of speech, Elvira simply can’t get her head around. The way she picks apart these linguistic conundrums is one of the many delights of this novel, but Maynard also touches on some of the difficulties too that Elvira experiences and it’s a touching and empathetic portrait. Elvira’s unlikely friendship with neighbour Sylvia is utterly charming, as too is her connection with Sylvia’s granddaughter, Roxanne. Her friendship with Paul, another neuroatypical character, is also lovingly drawn, and I was a bit disappointed that this didn’t get more attention. But Maynard covers a lot of ground in this story and there is much for Elvira to learn and explore so it’s understandable that some subplots take up less capacity when the main plot is so comprehensive.
For individual readers and book groups alike, I imagine this will be a winning choice, and it’s certainly a book that readers will be talking about. At the very least it will get you thinking about the way we understand the world and the social norms by which we live and just how complicated these can be.
Jade Craddock 4/4
The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard
Mantle 9781509842117 hbk Aug 2017
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